Photo: Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune

Actor Michael Shannon will be one of the big names on stage at the Chicago Humanities Festival this fall. 

Kimberly Peirce, the U. of C.-schooled film director (Boys Don’t Cry, Stop Loss) who is the force behind the highly anticipated remake of the horror classic Carrie, will be a headliner of the Chicago Humanities Festival, the organization just announced.

The eclectic 12-day fest (October 13 and 20; November 1-10) is equal parts highbrow intellectualism (philosopher Martha Nussbaum) and peculiarity (a musical revue about odd mating habits of animals). Tickets will go on sale here soon.

Here are 12 prime picks for the festival, starting with my most anticipated.


  • In one of the more fascinating pieces of programming, Chicago top cop Garry McCarthy in conversation with Yale Law prof Tracey Meares (who will give her perspective what’s driving violence in Chicago). With the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago on October 20.
  • Autism advocacy phenom Temple Grandin at the University of Illinois at Chicago Forum on November 9 at noon.
  • Chicago megaactor/bigscreen villain Michael Shannon, performing in the absurdist play White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, by the Iranian writer Nassim Soleimanpour. There will be four productions at the Museum of Contemporary Art theatre
  • The lyrical novelist Junot Diaz at Northwestern’s Cahn Auditorium on October 13 at 6 p.m.
  • Three-time Pulitzer winner Edward Albee, winner of the 2013 Chicago Tribune Literary Prize, at Symphony Center on November 3 at 10 a.m.
  • New Yorker star Susan Orlean, talking about Rin Tin Tin at the Thorne Auditorium on Sunday November 10 at 11 am.
  • African-American choreographer extraordinaire Bill T. Jones at the Logan Center for the Arts on October 20 at 3 pm
  • Local composer/musical theatre genius Doug Peck, with the actors Rob Lindley and Molly Brennan, staging that cabaret show I mentioned above about odd mating habits of animals. November 5 at Francis Parker at 7:30 p.m.
  • Delia Ephron, the writer of You’ve Got Mail, and, yes, Nora Ephron’s sister, in conversation at Northwestern’s Cahn Auditorium on October 13 at 2 p.m.
  • Lemony Snicket himself—the writer Daniel Handler—at Francis Parker School on November 1 at 6 p.m.
  • George Crumb’s Vox Balanae (Voice of the Whale), performed at the Logan Center for the Arts by new classical stars Claire Chase (International Contemporary Ensemble), Katinka Kleijn (Chicago Symphony Orchestra) and Jacob Greenberg (a New York-based pianist).
  • Tennis star/gay rights activist Martina Navratilova on November 9 at the UIC Forum at 10 a.m.

Fittingly, several prominent Chicagoans will also get stage time, including political virtuoso David Axelrod, starchitect Jeanne Gang, Frontera chef Rick Bayless, dinosaur expert Paul Sereno, and Kartemquin Films cofounder Gordon Quinn.